Okay, so OS X isn’t going anywhere, but it’s dead to me.
I have made a decision, and that decision is … no more Apple computers.
Mind you, this was not an easy decision. Currently, I have 3 Macs (1 iMac and 2 MacBook Pros), and I have devoted a lot of time and energy to the platform.
Yesterday, however, I realized that a change needed to be made. For the last two or three years, Apple has put their computer operating systems on the backburner while they focused on iOS, and this lack of focus has begun to show more and more in recent months.
“Gee Rex, that’s pretty vague, can you give us any specific examples?”
If I had the time, I could give you a dozen examples, but since I don’t, I will address the two that tormented me yesterday.
The first was my long-running battle with OS X memory management.
Yesterday morning, my iMac was so slow as to be unusable. I got a spinning beachball every time I changed focus in Eclipse or changed tabs in Chrome. When I clicked to launch Google Earth, it took three minutes for the splash screen to appear. Three minutes.
This is why:
Instead of freeing up memory when you close an application or file, OS X caches it in case you open the same application or file later. This cache resides in “inactive” memory.
But, what if you have no intention of re-opening that program or file for a long time? Well, you have two options. You can either reboot the machine or open a command line and type ‘purge’. Frankly, I do the latter several times each day.
You see, OS X is supposed to allocate more memory to running programs when they need it, but in my experience, this does not happen. At least not quickly or efficiently. Instead, Mac OS lives in the past. Instead of freeing memory on demand, it prioritizes memory based on programs that you might, at some point in the future, re-open.
This does not work well for me. It works so poorly that my MacBook Pro with 8GB RAM and a 2.3Ghz processor runs circles around my iMac with a 2.8Ghz processor and 4GB of RAM. Sure, the operating system is fine for updating Facebook or making a quick movie, but once OS X touches the swap file for an ardent multi-tasker, it’s game over. It’s beach ball city until you reboot or purge.
Memory management wasn’t my only problem, however.
Yesterday afternoon, I found it necessary to transfer several photo folders from my Mac to a Windows machine. As the files were transferring, there was a temporary interruption in the Wi-Fi connection. The Windows machine handled the broken connection gracefully … while not so well with my premium ‘think different’ OS X machine.
Instead, the below dialog box remained on my screen for 7 hours.
Seven hours. There was no way to exit, end, or kill the processes. At least no obvious way.
I had to reboot the machine. That’s right, I had to end every task I had running, and reboot the machine just to clean up the broken file transfer. And … I couldn’t even do that gracefully. The OS wouldn’t reboot itself, because its own Finder was hung.
What is this, 1988? This is embarrassing. It’s Mickey Mouse programming. It’s Windows 95 all over again.
The “world’s most advanced operating system” cannot kill a dialog box when the transfer is broken?
I had to reboot the old fashioned way. The “it just doesn’t work” way.
Fortunately, Apple finally pushed an OS X update to me last week, and I was hopeful that it would fix my problems.
It did not.
Instead, it added an “App Store” to my main menu. Apple updated my OS simply to give me a place to buy more stuff from Apple. Wow, it was like a dream come true.
At this point, the way I use a computer (furiously and with lots of app switching), Macs are the slowest computers on the market, bordering on unusable, and I am not alone in this observation.
One of my forum members recently purchased a MacBook Pro. I was even somewhat instrumental in recommending it (I honestly thought it would work for his “light” use). Shortly after receiving it, he returned it.
I hope he does not mind, but I am going to quote his entire message:
“I’m returning the macbook.
The thing bogs down way too often with that spinning multi-colored wheel.
There are some things the mac does better and somethings that the pc can do better but for my needs the pc allows me to work quicker and since windows 7 I’ve never had a crash or need to restart along with the fact that there is no program equivalent to Windows Live Writer for a Mac.
Adding more RAM would void the warranty so forget it. I’m returning the macbook.
It is rock solid build wise but if it is the 4GB of RAM or Dual core processor that is not up to the task I don’t really care. For $1300 it shouldn’t be an issue.”
Cult members take note: This guy had absolutely no dog in the OS war. He loves his iPod, loves his iPhone, and because of this, he bought his first Mac in good faith expecting it to be superior to Windows 7 in every way. It let him down.
“Gee Rex, it must just be you and that forum guy. I own all kinds of Apple stuff and I never have ANY of those problems!”
I’m sure you don’t.
If you are like most Apple users, you’re fine with a phone that does not multi-task and you find 2GB of data to be more than enough to get you through the month.
I, on the other hand, use 10 times that much mobile data month after month. I take pictures while my phone is spitting out GPS directions, while three photos are uploading to my blog. I consume so much power that I carry an external battery pack in my pocket for my Android.
I don’t sit in Broadway coffee shops with intentionally messed-up hair hitting refresh on the Bank of America site to see if my trust fund check has cleared. I DO things. Lots of things. At the same time.
Increasingly, Apple is not for do’ers. It is not for power users. It is not for creators. It is not for people who think different. It is for posers. It is for hipsters. It is for metrosexuals. It is for wannabes and pretenders.
If you have believed nothing else I have ever said, believe this … In 2011, there is no bigger symbol of conformity than the big, glowing, piece of fruit.
Apples makes mediocre Chinese products which are under-spec’d, over-marketed, and over-priced.
When I first got my iMac, the first thing I did was upgrade the memory. I thought about buying it pre-upgraded from Apple, but they wanted something like $500 for an extra 4GB of memory. Not just any memory, mind you, but Apple memory, where the secret ingredient is magic pixie dust and purple elephant dung.
When the computer arrived, and I opened the memory slot, I was surprised to find that “Apple Memory” was in fact Hynix brand memory.
What is Hynix you ask?
It’s cheap commodity off-brand memory. It’s the inexpensive memory modules you can typically find in Walmart, Target, or K-Mart next to the white boxes of eMachines. It’s also “Apple Memory”. Stuff Steve Jobs sells to gullible rubes at astronomical markups.
My three year fling with Apple reminds me of my flirtation with the Southwestern USA.
Growing up in Washington, DC and New York City, I became accustomed to crowded conditions, grit, cloudy skies, thunderstorms, and all of the trappings of an east coast urban upbringing.
When I visited Los Angeles, I thought it was just the bees knees. Sunny skies, palm trees, beaches … I also drove through the “ghettos” of Compton and marveled at how even the poor people had personal automobiles and, get this, single family houses.
Single family houses!
It seemed like a different world. Where I came from, only the affluent lived in detached houses, and I could count the number of friends who owned their own cars on one hand. In the Southwest, however, this was everyone’s birthright. You could work part time at Taco Bell and have these things.
It seemed great, and people seemed to love it. After all, Los Angeles County is the most populous county in the USA.
All that glitters is not gold, however. When I eventually moved to LA, I realized that it was all hype. Los Angeles is the world’s largest 7-11. Strip malls and taco stands. Strippers and Scientologists. The place was full of ordinary people desperately trying their best to escape their unglamorous pasts.
Apple is the Los Angeles of computing. It’s form over function. It’s an identity crisis with an ironic t-shirt and a Fedora hat.
And, once again, I’m leaving LA.
I am going to build an ugly computer. An uncool computer. A computer that will be laughed at by people who pay $150 for 500GB hard drives for their MacBooks. My computer will have 12GB of Ram, 4TB of disk space, and cost about $1,400. Sure it will be made from Chinese components (I have no choice at this point), but instead of being designed by an androgynous liver-thief, it will be designed and assembled by me in Seattle, Washington USA.
Most importantly, it will run Linux.
Linux runs on whatever machine I choose. Linux doesn’t charge me $30 for service packs. If you have an IQ anywhere near the triple digits, Linux just works.
While bedheaded posers sit at Starbucks and tap out Yo La Tengo reviews on Pitchfork media, I will sit in my nerd cave tweaking source code, compiling the precise features I need (and no more) into a monolithic kernel that efficiently powers the very specific hardware combination I have chosen.
Goodbye Mac and the Cult of Apple.
It is time to take back my computing environment. It’s time to pop the beach balls. It’s time to regain multi-tasking. It is time to stop being a tool of a corporate sweatshop operator while pretending to be alternative.
It’s time to think different.